The Socialist 25 June 2008
Summer of action needed!
Unison Service Group Executives - socialists elected
Little comfort for the right-wing leadership
UNISON MEMBERS have just elected their service group leaderships (SGEs), the bodies that oversee pay and conditions of service negotiations in service groups including local government, health, higher education and energy.
A Unison member
Competition for these seats is not as intense as for the ruling National Executive Council (NEC), with many seats uncontested. Nonetheless, the move to the left amongst the union's rank and file membership, seen in last year's NEC elections, has been maintained this year.
Of particular note is the election of two Socialist Party members for the health SGE. Adrian O'Malley, Yorkshire and Humberside and Len Hockey, Greater London. Both Adrian and Len have impressive records of campaigning for their members.
Len is known for leading a successful strike that forced private employers at Whipps Cross hospital to pay national rates to their employees. But equally crucial to their election is the clear call that both put for an end to the Unison link with, and financial support for, the Labour Party.
Other lefts also had successes in the health service. Janet Maiden took one of the London seats and Karen Collins took a seat in the East Midlands region, where left Nick Holden held his seat.
Overall, despite the loss of two North West lefts, Karen Reissman and Caroline Bedale, (Karen Reissman was banned from standing, following victimisation by her employer) the lefts have two more members on the SGE and the right wing have lost a number of their leading lights.
These results show how hollow the union leadership's base in the health service group really is, given that traditionally they lean on it as a key point of support for their right-wing policies. It is only a matter of time before the right-wing activists who make this situation possible are replaced by ones more reflective of the rank and file members.
Local government, Unison's largest service group also saw a consolidation of the position of left wingers on the SGE. Socialist Party members Vicky Perrin, Yorkshire and Humberside, and Vicky Ingram, East Midlands, held their seats. As did SWP member John McDermott, Yorkshire and Humberside.
The position of the SWP-dominated United Left in these elections was contradictory in parts. In Greater London the United Left declared a policy of not opposing sitting lefts and used this to back Dave Eggmore against Socialist Party member Glenn Kelly. Whereas in the West Midlands they supported SWP member Dave Hughes who ousted a sitting left-winger.
Even where socialists were not elected, their votes were impressive. In the Greater London election referred to above, Glenn Kelly's vote was not far behind Dave Eggmore, whose record on pensions and pay seriously tarnishes his left credentials.
Predictions that Glenn would split the left vote and let the right wing in came to nothing. Glenn's vote was impressive, given the backing that Eggmore had from United Left branches. [Glenn, of course, retains his seat on the Union's executive.]
The right-wing candidate was marginalised with only around 1,300 votes, once again demonstrating how little support there is in the union for the leadership's policies.
In the East Midlands, Socialist Party member Marc Glasscoe stood for the first time and came only 500 votes behind the right-wing incumbent from a much larger county branch.
Overall, these elections show a growing dissatisfaction amongst Unison members with a leadership that fails to deliver on pay, conditions of service and pensions. They show a growing mood of militancy and a desire to stop bankrolling New Labour. And above all they show how small is the base the right-wing witch-hunting bureaucracy has amongst the ordinary members of the union.
In this issue
Socialist Party editorial
Unison Conference 2008
Socialist Party campaigns
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Origins of the Labour Party
Socialist Party workplace news